Four Days Inside Guantanamo (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/10/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Impressively edited and cleverly structured, this is a harrowing and thoroughly depressing documentary that lifts the lid on US interrogation techniques and the concurrent abuse of civil liberties.

What's it all about?
Directed by Luc Côté and Patricio Henriquez, Four Days inside Guantanamo uses a combination of CCTV footage and talking heads to tell the story of 16-year-old Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was arrested (aged just 15) in Afghanistan following a firefight in 2002 and accused of killing a US soldier. Although badly wounded, Khadr was initially imprisoned in Bagram where he was interrogated and tortured before being moved to Guantanamo Bay.

Seven months after his initial arrest, Khadr was interviewed in Guantanamo by Canadian intelligence agents over a period of four days. The CCTV recordings of those interrogations were placed into the public domain following a 2008 ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court and the film's intriguing structure has its various talking heads - including lawyers, politicians, family members, former Bagram and Guantanamo detainees, UN workers, journalists and a former Bagram interrogator – watching the recordings and essentially providing a commentary.

The Good
The interrogation interviews are grimly fascinating and extremely disturbing: at first the agents are friendly, offering to make a run to a nearby Subway (the fact that there's a Subway within spitting distance of Guantanamo is equally fascinating but in a different way) and making sure he's comfortable. In the first interview, Omar duly tells them what he thinks they want to hear (it's noted that a fellow inmate probably gave him that advice) and tells a nervous and not terribly convincing story about his father knowing Osama Bin Laden and having once seen him at a party.

However, by the second interview, Omar has wised up and, realising that the agents are not there to facilitate his repatriation after all, he attempts to retract his story, only for the officers (who were clearly very excited by the Bin Laden story) to refuse to believe him; the film's original title quote - “You don't like the truth” - comes from something Khadr says in response.

The Equally Good
What's remarkable about the film is the way it turns the tables, with the talking heads all pointing out the myriad ways in which Khadr's civil liberties are being violated (he's a minor, being interviewed without a lawyer or an adult present, etc). And as if what we're watching isn't sickening enough, a caption at the end provides the killer punch: Omar was ultimately convicted (as part of a 2010 plea bargain), making him the only minor ever to be convicted of war crimes.

Worth seeing?
Powerful and disturbing in equal measure, Four Days inside Guantanamo is an important documentary that demands to be seen.

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Content updated: 17/12/2017 19:36

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